We live in a world full of choice and temptation, where we are constantly bombarded with invitations, in the broadest sense of the word, via everything from street advertising to social media. We are constantly invited to do something, think something, experience something, buy something, consume something. Competition for our attention spans is fierce, and it is often difficult to distinguish between what is important and what is not.
Much of our lives is now spent training ourselves, in one way or another, to experience as much as possible. We are tempted by quick loans, special offers and just one more episode of our favourite TV series, courtesy of on-demand streaming services. As a species, we have created a society which is based on invitations, temptations, choices and special offers, but we rarely practise the art of self-restraint, saying no and opting out – those are skills we lack both as individuals and as a society.
In this book I recommend making a virtue out of necessity and practising the art of missing out. Learning the skills of missing out has become a necessity because for so long our lives have been based on overconsumption, untrammelled growth and whittling away at our natural resources. We are damaging not only ourselves, but also our planet. The antidote is to discover the value of focus and contemplation, the virtue of moderation, the psychological benefits of self-restraint, and the joys of missing out.
Oscar Wilde famously proclaimed that he could resist everything – except temptation. We might raise a small warning flag and add that we should do everything in moderation – including moderation. It is a central component – possibly even a cardinal virtue – of a flourishing life, but like everything else moderation can be overdone to an unhealthy degree. It can become sacrosanct, puritanical and unbearable, not only for the moderates themselves, but for those around them.
I want this book to be seen as a counter-balance to all forms of extremism. Those fond of a good paradox might even call it extremely moderate.
Svend Brinkmann lived quietly as a professor of Psychology at Aalborg University until he published Stand Firm, which became an overnight bestseller and quickly established him as a leading public intellectual and cultural critic. Winner of the prestigious Rosenkjær Prize, Svend travels widely to host events and lecture on the key problems of modern life. In 2018 he published the acclaimed Standpoints. He has also appeared in various television documentaries and presented Danish television’s Live Fast! programmes and the Meaningful Life series on Danish Radio 1.